Published on June 11th, 2012 | by Chris Wotton0
Spitting melons at the Thump: The Watermelon Thump Festival
Nothing says summer quite like a big hunk of juicy, red watermelon – and the Watermelon Thump Festival in Luling, Texas, is an ode to this most fair weather of fruits. There’s pure, unadulterated family fun on the menu all weekend.
Hailing from 1954 and now held annually in the last full weekend of June, the Thump was the brainchild of school principal Hermon Allen as a way to honour watermelon growers and promote the market for the fruit in the city of Luling, 140 miles from Houston. The four-day celebration, which this year kicks off on Thursday 21st June, plays host to a carnival, live music, dressing up shows, arts and crafts, a car show and the infamous seed spitting and watermelon eating contests.
In three separate seed spitting contests held across the weekend, children, adults and teams all get the chance to take the crown and steal the Guinness World Record from current title holder from Lee Wheelis, who managed the unlikely feat of spitting a seed almost 69 feet in 1998. A bonus cash prize is on offer to anyone who can do better! Meanwhile, the watermelon eating contest, held on the Saturday, pits contestants against the clock to see who can eat a slice the fastest.
Around 40,000 visitors are thought to pour in for the Thump each year, and among top attractions is the pageant, with its high point of the coronation of the Thump Queen in the Pavilion. The Champion Melon award, given to the largest Black Diamond variety watermelon grown in line with the rules of the growers’ association, fetches anywhere between $400 and $22,500 when the prize melon is sold at auction, with part of the proceeds funding student scholarships. In the past, the champion melon has been sent out to celebrities as a way of building the festival’s name – TV personalities Art Linkletter and Johnny Carson have received them, and even President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Luling’s famous melons have made appearances on shows including Nashville Now and Creek and Chase.
The Thump’s headline acts in 2012 include the ‘young, fast and dangerous’ Texan folk and country group The Pale Horses, hailing from the city of Gonzales, and acts Kevin Fowler – who describes his music as ‘country with a bad attitude’ – and Thom Shepherd who headline on Friday evening. The Cody Johnson Band, Charlie Robison and the Bellamy Brothers complete the line-up, which in part gives the Thump its famous name, on Saturday night. On Sunday afternoon, performances by Johnny Dee’s Rocket 88’s and Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs straddle the Thump Car Show, sponsored by Luling Chevrolet, before the awards start at 4.30pm.
Admission is free on the Thursday and Sunday, with admission between $5 and $15 on the Friday, further free admission until 1pm on the Saturday and then a $10 gate charge for the Saturday’s evening events. Luling is also home to the famous City Market real Texas barbecue – one more reason to pay a visit.
For more information you can visit www.watermelonthump.com